Theresa May is expected to reshuffle her Cabinet early next week. Unfortunately for Theresa May, she’s been expected to do this since before Christmas – after she refrained from appointing a new First Secretary of State in light of Damian Green’s forced resignation/sacking. This means the reshuffle has dominated the news agenda for several weeks now.
Each day this month, there have been several – often conflicting – stories about what the Prime Minister plans to do in the upcoming reshuffle. Depending who you believe, Boris Johnson may be moved or not moved, David Davis is in trouble, Jeremy Hunt is to be appointed Secretary of State (or to the Cabinet Office in a less stately title), a trained doctor could be about to become Health Secretary and Justine Greening faces the axe from education.
One of the few things everyone seems to agree on is that May will use this opportunity to promote younger MPs – the class of 2015 – to junior ministerial positions. This gives the government the chance to claim they are revitalising their Cabinet without triggering too much speculation over the next Tory leader. Concern over leadership speculation is the reason it’s not at all clear that May will actually appoint a new First Secretary of State. Although it’s accepted someone will do a role similar, they may not get such a grand title over fears that person – expected to be Hunt – could be perceived to be the anointed successor.
However, failing to appoint a new First Secretary could prove costly to May in other ways. To do so would create a clear news line that would lead the coverage of the reshuffle. If she does not and this reshuffle turns out to be a rather minor one, May risks looking as though she is acting from a place of weakness. There has been so much speculation in the media now that – as Isabel warned on Coffee House – minor moves, even those that were always planned to be so, could look timid and as though she wasn’t able to do the more drastic moves reported.